The 50 Greatest Manchester City Players of All Time

By Ric Turner, Thu 28 June 2012 11:13

The 50 Greatest Manchester City Players of All Time

Producing lists such as these is always going to be subjective, and I'm sure will be the source of much debate. The exclusion of certain players, and inclusion of others, may invoke the ire of some Blues. It's virtually impossible to get consensus on such a subjective issue.

I've tried to be as fair and objective as possible, taking into account not just the player's natural ability, but also the longevity of their City career and what they achieved during their time at the club. So for instance whilst Nicolas Anelka was clearly a better footballer than, say, Shaun Goater it's the Bermudian who makes the list, albeit in 47th place.

The list is based on an article I did for The Times back in 2009, but has been tweaked since. With hindsight Robinho probably didn't merit a place in the list after all. For that reason, none of the current squad are included despite their outstanding achievements over the last two seasons. As this is a historical list, they can, and no doubt will, be added once their time at City has come to an end.

Please feel free to add your opinions to the debate, either in the comments here or on the forum:

  • 1. C Bell

    500 appearances, 155 goals

    Known quite simply as The King amongst City fans, Bell is by common consensus the greatest player ever to pull on the sacred sky blue shirt. He joined the club from Bury in 1966 after being watched by Assistant Manager Malcolm Allison on a number of occasions. As local legend has it, City were initially unable to afford the asking price so Allison would sit amongst the other scouts and bemoan Bell's ability all game. "He can't head it, can't pass it, he's hopeless", he'd lament in the stands at Gigg Lane, until City secured his services in 1966. Bell possessed incredible stamina and speed, was a good tackler and a natural goalscorer. He was the complete midfielder. A disgraceful challenge from United''s Martin Buchan resulted in a terrible knee injury that Bell never really recovered from, and deprived City of their greatest ever player in his peak years. His emotional comeback on Boxing Day 1977 is an occasion still talked about by fans.

  • 2. BC Trautmann

    545 appearances

    Trautman served with the Luftwaffe during the Second World War, and was captured by British forces towards the end of the conflict and transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp in Lancashire. City's decision to sign an ex-German paratrooper in 1949 sparked mass protests but over time Trautman's performances won the City fans over. He firmly established himself in City folklore in the 1956 FA Cup final, when he broke his neck fifteen minutes from full time. Incredibly, he continued playing and was able to collect his winner's medal.

  • 3. PD Doherty

    134 appearances, 82 goals

    Some older City fans protest that Doherty was an even finer player than Colin Bell, but as I never got to see either of them play it's difficult to quantify (apologies to the Doherty contingent, but I never said this was going to be factually accurate, right?). Regardless, Doherty was a City legend and although his career was sadly cut short by the Second World War, he was a fantastically gifted footballer and fully deserves his place in the top three. Although I still think Babyshambles are rubbish.

  • 4. FV Swift

    378 appearances

    Tragically Swift's life was cut prematurely short by the Munich Air Disaster, whilst covering the game as a journalist for News of the World. Swift was a giant of a man, and famously fainted in front of the King after City won the 1934 FA Cup final. He was something of a innovator as a keeper, pioneering the long throw, and with 376 appearances is one of City's greatest ever players. But for Trautman he'd be widely regarded as our best ever goalkeeper.

  • 5. WH Meredith

    1894-1906, 1921-1924
    393 appearances, 152 goals

    Often dubbed "Football's first superstar", Meredith enjoyed a remarkable career. He had two spells at City and played his final game for the club aged 49. Sadly his legacy is somewhat tainted by a conviction for bribery (which led to him being banned for 18 months) and, more heinously, a spell at Old Trafford, but his achievements cannot be underestimated. A proud Union man, he fought continuously against the exploitation of footballers in the early part of the Century.

  • 6. AA Oakes

    682 appearances, 34 goals

    Oakes was the consummate professional, both on and off the field. A conscientious trainer and a model of consistency, he spent 17 years at the club and holds the record number of appearances for the Blues. He is the also the most decorated player in City's history, winning the League Championship, ECWC, FA Cup, two league cups and the Second Division Championship.

  • 7. FH Lee

    340 appearances, 144 goals

    Although his legacy has been somewhat tainted by his disastrous tenure as Chairman in the mid-90s, Lee was an integral part of City's most successful ever team. His strength and tenacity were admired by fans, and he had an uncanny knack of "winning" penalties and converting them (earning him the nickname Lee One Pen). He had balls too, famously going toe to toe with Norman Hunter whilst playing for Derby County. We won't mention his appointment of Alan Ball as City manager.

  • 8. EF Brook

    496 appearances, 178 goals

    City's all-time leading goalscorer, with 178 goals in 494 appearances, Brook was a strong player with a fieresome shot. He was an integral part of the 1934 FA Cup and 1937 League Championship winning sides, and his goalscoring record has never been surpassed. Brook was inducted into the City Hall of Fame in 2004.

  • 9. TCF Johnson

    354 appearances, 166 goals

    Johnson is the second leading goalscorer in City's history, and holds the club record for most goals in a single season (38 in 1928/29). He was an incredibly popular figure with supporters, and his transfer to Everton in 1930 sparked protests and even a boycott on the terraces.

  • 10. NJ Young

    416 appearances, 111 goals

    Not the aging Canadian rocker, but the Fallowfield born forward with a devastating left foot. Whilst not as revered as his contemporaries Bell, Lee and Summerbee, Young was arguably City's most important forward during the Mercer-Allison period of success. His relationship with the club was soured after a promised testimonial failed to materialise, much to the consternation of City fans. Young died in 2011, aged 67, after a battle against lung cancer.

  • 11. M Summerbee

    452 appearances, 66 goals

    Signed by Joe Mercer, Summerbee made over 400 appearances for City. In his first season at the club he started every single match, the only Manchester City player to do so that season. Playing on the right wing, he was one of the most influential players in the side which won 4 trophies in 3 seasons (1968-70). Something of a practical joker, Summerbee (or "Buzzer" as teammates nicknamed him) was also known for a fiery temperament, a trait described by teammate Franny Lee as "retaliating first".

  • 12. M Doyle

    570 appearances, 41 goals

    As his autobiography dictates, if ever there was a footballer whose blood ran blue it was Mike Doyle. With over 550 appearances for Manchester City spanning an incredible thirteen years, Doyle is a legendary figure amongst the City fans who idolised the tough defender throughout his career and beyond. He was voted as the club's hardest player in the official magazine, and loathed Manchester United with a passion.

  • 13. TJ Corrigan

    603 appearances

    Big Joe spent an impressive 16 years with City and, after a shaky start, firmly established himself as a fan's favourite. Prior to each home game, supporter Helen Turner would present him with a lucky sprig of heather, which became a pre-match ritual. He played nine times for England, and would've won many more caps but for the form of Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence. Along with Swift and Trautman, he is one of City's greatest ever keepers.

  • 14. E Toseland

    411 appearances, 75 goals

    Toseland was a pacy winger (once described as "football's Jesse Owens") with an eye for goal. He was an important member of the team that won the F.A. Cup in 1934, and the club's first Division One title in 1937. In the 1937–38 season Toseland was part of the City team that were relegated from the first division despite scoring more goals than any other team. In 1938 he transferred to Sheffield Wednesday but only played fifteen times for his new team before the outbreak of war.

  • 15. TA Booth

    492 appearances, 36 goals

    Booth was a talented centre half, who was excellent in the air and equally comfortable with the ball at his feet. He was a versatile player who could play in midfield when called upon, and spent 13 years at City, winning five trophies.

  • 16. D Tueart

    1974-1978, 1979-1983
    275 appearances, 109 goals

    Famous for his spectacular overhead kick in the 1976 League Cup final, Tueart was a classy winger who scored an impressive 109 goals for the club in two spells in the 1970s. He enjoyed a spell with New York Cosmos, where he played alongside Franz Beckenbaur, before rejoining City in 1979. Went on to become a director of City and was instrumental in attracting Kevin Keegan to the club as manager.

  • 17. J Hayes

    364 appearances, 152 goals

    Hayes made his debut for City as a teenager in 1953, and scored the opening goal in the 1956 F.A. Cup final as City beat Newcastle United 3-1 at Wembley. A Lancashire lad, Hayes worked in both a cotton mill and a coal mine before becoming a professional footballer. He was prolific for City in the late 50s/early 60s, before suffering a serious knee injury. He was sold to Barnsley in 1965.

  • 18. AK Book

    314 appearances, 5 goals

    Book came into the professional game relatively late, having played much of his career in non-league football, and joined City aged 31. He went on to become the most decorated captain in City's history, winning four trophies between 1968-71, and also had a successful spell as City manager in the late 70s.

  • 19. S Cowan

    407 appearances, 24 goals

    The only City player to have appeared in 3 Cup Finals, Cowan captained the club in the 1930's and went on to become the team manager. Cowan was an excellent motivator and no nonsense defender, famed for his heading ability.

  • 20. H Barnes

    235 appearances, 127 goals

    Barnes had a phenomenal goalscoring record for City, netting 125 goals in 235 appearances and was also the first City player to score at Maine Road. He possessed a fearsome shot, and according to legend he once hit a free kick with so much force that it broke the goalkeeper's wrist.

  • 21. G Pardoe

    380 appearances, 22 goals

    Pardoe became City's youngest ever player when he made his debut in 1962, and made the left back position his own in the most successful era in City's history, playing alongside his cousin Alan Oakes. His career was cut short by a broken leg after a horrific tackle by George Best.

  • 22. R Paul

    294 appearances, 8 goals

    The Welshman was a determined and fearless wing-half, who led City to successive FA Cup finals in 1955 and 1956. After the disappointment of losing to Newcastle in 1955 the defiant Paul vowed that City would be back the following year, and was true to his word.

  • 23. D Ewing

    303 appearances, 1 goal

    Scotsman Ewing was an uncompromising player with a huge frame and vocal encouragement to match. He holds the dubious distinction of club record for number of own goals (10), and played in both the 1955 and 1956 FA Cup Finals. Came back to the club in a coaching role in 1970, and passed away in 1999.

  • 24. RJ Clarke

    370 appearances, 79 goals

    Clarke arrived at City in 1946, and ended up spending the next fifty years with the club (first as a player, then assistant coach, followed by pools promoter, then Social Club manager, and later still as one of the founders of the ex-players association). The Welsh outside-left helped City to successive FA Cup finals in the 1950s.

  • 25. PC Power

    444 appearances, 36 goals

    Power was a versatile player who could play in both defence and midfield, and spent 11 years at his boyhood team. He possessed a steely, some might say slightly mental, stare; one journalist memorably described him as looking like he'd offered to break in a pair of contact lenses for a mate, and forgotten to take them out.

  • 26. SF Tilson

    275 appearances, 132 goals

    Scored a brace in the 1934 FA Cup Final to seal a 2-1 victory over Portsmouth. City had been trailing by a goal, and young keeper Frank Swift was feeling culpable for the goal conceded. "Tha don't need to worry. I'll plonk in two in the next half." Tilson reassured him at half time and was true to his word, with goals in the 75th and 78th minutes.

  • 27. KH Barnes

    282 appearances, 19 goals

    Barnes was a half back who played for City in the 1950s, and flourished under the Revie Plan. He played in back to back FA Cup finals in 1955 and 1956, before joining Wrexham in 1961. He came back to the club in a variety of roles, and was oversaw the FA Youth Cup winning side on 1986. His son Peter also went on to play for the Blues.

  • 28. T Browell

    247 appearances, 137 goals

    Browell joined City from Everton in 1913, and went on to form a prolific partnership with Horace Barnes. He is the seventh leading scorer in the club's history with 137 goals, and would have even more if wartime games were taken in to consideration. City were relegated in 1926 (typically after reaching the F.A. Cup final in the same season), and Browell was sold to Blackpool where he remained for the rest of his career. His achievements were recognised when a street close to Maine Road was named after him in the 70s; Tommy Browell Close is located to the east of Moss Side.

  • 29. RA Hartford

    1974-1979, 1981-1984
    321 appearances, 36 goals

    Hartford famously failed a medical when it was discovered he had a hole in his heart, which put paid to a high profile transfer to Leeds in 1971, before joining City in 1974. A strong, talented midfielder, Hartford helped City to win the League Cup in 1976 before being sold, controversially, by Malcolm Allison in 1979. He returned to City in 1981 for a second, less successful, spell at the club.

  • 30. RS Marshall

    356 appearances, 80 goals

    Marshall was a versatile player who started his career as an inside forward, before reinventing himself as a centre half in the latter stages of his career. He was an instrumental part of the first City team to win the League Championship in 1938, before leaving for Stockport County. He remained as manager at Edgeley Park for a decade.

  • 31. W Donachie

    436 appearances, 2 goals

    Donachie spent 12 years at City, and was an able replacement for Glyn Pardoe, whose career was cut short by injury. Donachie was a full Scotland international, gaining 35 caps for his country, and appearing in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. He returned to City in 1998 as Joe Royle's assistant manager before leaving for a similar role at Sheffield Wednesday.

  • 32. PS Barnes

    1974-1979, 1986-1987
    161 appearances, 22 goals

    Barnes, the son of former City legend Ken, made his City debut in 1974 and scored in the 1976 League Cup final at the age of 18. In the same year he won the PFA Young Player of the Year award, and went on to be capped 22 times by England. In 1979 he was (yet) another high-profile victim of Malcolm Allison's ill fated revolution, sold to West Bromwich Albion for a club transfer record. He returned to City briefly in 1986.

  • 33. PA Lake

    134 appearances, 11 goals

    A sublimely gifted footballer whose career was tragically cut short by injury. Lake was a Manchester lad, and City through and through. Some City fans have called him our Duncan Edwards, in that he was a prodigiously talented youngster who never got to fulfil his natural talent. An inappropriate analogy perhaps, but one can't help wonder what he could've gone on to achieve but for his unfortunate injuries. Equally comfortable in defence or midfield, he had the world at his feet.

  • 34. DV Watson

    188 appearances, 6 goals

    Watson was a tough, uncompromising centre half made of granite. He was hugely popular with supporters who admired his rugged qualities and fighting spirit, and he was capped 65 times by England. Another victim of Malcolm Allison's reckless purge saw him sold, bizarrely, to Werder Bremen.

  • 35. SC Wright-Phillips

    1999-2005, 2008-2011
    273 appearances, 46 goals

    Wright-Phillips, or SWP as he was affectionately known by supporters, was the first graduate of City's esteemed academy to break into the first team. Despite his diminutive size, Wright-Phillips was blessed with great pace and dribbling ability and was hugely popular with City fans. A £21m move to Chelsea (still a club record) was unsuccesful, and he returned to City in 2008 for three further seasons, before joining QPR in 2011.

  • 36. NJ Quinn

    243 appearances, 78 goals

    I remember feeling underwhelmed when we signed Quinn, but he went on to establish himself as a cult figure in City's recent history. Despite having relatively limited ability, he was devastatingly effective in Peter Reid's dour long ball system and his drinking prowess coupled with the fact that he was a genuinely nice guy will live long in Manchester folklore. His disco pants have been immortalised in our repertoire of songs, even though Sunderland fans shamelessly try to take the credit for it.

  • 37. A Herd

    291 appearances, 125 goals

    Herd was a Scottish inside half who joined City in 1933 from Hamilton Academicals. He was an integral part of both the 1934 F.A. CUp and 1937 League Championship winning sides. His career was interrupted by the Second World War, but he resumed playing in 1945. Three years later he was transferred to Stockport County, where he ended his playing days.

  • 38. U Rosler

    176 appearances, 64 goals

    “Der Bomber” as he was affectionately known, arrived at City to little fanfare but soon endeared himself to the fans by scoring a number of crucial goals in the 93/94 season. That his Grandad bombed Old Trafford, according to local legend, just cemented his place in our hearts.

  • 39. R Johnstone

    139 appearances, 51 goals

    Johnstone is perhaps best remembered as being one the Hibernian "Famous Five", but he enjoyed a successful spell at City between 1955-59. He became the first player to score in successive cup finals before returning to Hibs and, later, Oldham Athletic.

  • 40. RW Marsh

    152 appearances, 47 goals

    Marsh signed for City in 1972 for a then club record £200,000. Upon signing Marsh, City were four points clear at the top of the table but by the end of the season had slipped to 4th. Marsh himself has since claimed that it was he who cost the club the league title that year, with his style simply not suiting that of the team. He nevertheless became one of City's star players, scoring 19 goals in 1972-73 and often dazzling the crowd with his skills. Marsh led the club to a League Cup final in 1974, though this time he was on the losing side as City were beaten by Wolves.

  • 41. JA Crossan

    110 appearances, 29 goals

    Crossan was an important member of the 1965-66 Second Division Championship winning team, and was Joe Mercer's first captain. Had a huge influence in the dressing room and helped lay the foundations for City's most successful period, although sadly injury limited his time at City to just two full seasons.

  • 42. G Kinkladze

    121 appearances, 22 goals

    Probably the most naturally gifted player I've ever seen at City. His dazzling displays in the moribund relegation season were one of the few highlights of Alan Ball's tenureship. Actually, no. They were the only highlight. The fact that he stuck with us as we slipped down the divisions only endeared him to me more.

  • 43. D White

    339 appearances, 96 goals

    White was born in Urmston and was a member of City's "golden generation" that won the FA Youth Cup in 1986. He made his full debut the same year, and quickly established himself as a first team regular. Known for his pace and strength, White could play either on the right wing or a striker. A number of impressive performances at the start of the 1992/93 season saw him capped by England, but his form dipped and in December 1993 joined Leeds in a swap deal which saw David Rocastle arrive in the opposite direction.

  • 44. GA Owen

    124 appearances, 23 goals

    Owen was a hugely talented midfielder who broke into the City side in 1975, aged just 17, and soon became a popular figure amongst supporters. Criminally, he was sold to West Brom just four years later during Malcolm Allison's disastrous second spell in charge of the club.

  • 45. D Law

    1960-1961, 1973-1974
    82 appearances, 38 goals

    Obviously more famous for his time at Manchester United, Law's inclusion on this list is open to some debate as he only spent two seasons at City, either side of his time at Old Trafford. I decided he merited a place purely for that magical moment when he backheeled United into Division Two in 1974, his last ever kick in professional football.

  • 46. RP Dunne

    352 appearances, 8 goals

    Perhaps a surprising choice given his propensity for red cards and own goals, but it'd be folly to overlook the fact that he has won an unprecedented four back to back player of the season awards. At his imperious best he was a rock and revelled in the face of adversity. At his worst, he was comically bad. In many ways he personified City at that time.

  • 47. LS Goater

    212 appearances, 103 goals

    Never the most technically gifted of players (quite the opposite in fact!), Goater merits a place on this list as a cult icon as much as anything. Not that this should detract from an impressive goal scoring record, you understand. 103 goals for a club in the modern era is an impressive feat, although the fact that many of these were scored in the lower leagues and came off his arse, shin or chin mean that he doesn’t rank higher. Nonetheless, a genuinely nice guy and a great ambassador for the club.

  • 48. DG Revie

    178 appearances, 41 goals

    Despite his associations with dirty Leeds, Revie was a hugely influential player during his time at City and was awarded the Football Writer's Player of the Year award in 1955. City's tactic of playing a deep lying centre forward (Revie's position) became known as the "Revie Plan" and transformed the way the game was played in this country.

  • 49. M Woosnam

    93 appearances, 4 goals

    Woosnam was a quite remarkable all round sportsman. Not content with captaining City (and indeed England) he also was a five times Cambridge Blue, Wimbledon doubles champion, Davis Cup captain, Olympic tennis gold medallist, and Lords centurion. Not a bad career, all things considered.

  • 50. K Deyna

    43 appearances, 13 goals

    Deyna was captain of the Polish national side and joined City in 1978, one of the first wave of overseas players to play in the English league. His time at the club was marred by injury, and he left in 1981 having only managed 43 appearances, but he was an exceptionally gifted playmaker and became a cult figure